Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Archive for the 'Reviews – DC' Category

The Doctor Is Quinn

Posted by Don MacPherson on 6th December 2013

Variant coverHarley Quinn #0
“Picky Sicky”
Writers: Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti
Artists: Amanda Conner, Becky Cloonan, Tony S. Daniel & Sandu Florea, Stephane Roux, Dan Panosian, Walter Simonson, Jim Lee & Scott Williams, Bruce Timm, Charlie Adlard, Adam Hughes, Art Baltazar, Tradd Moore, Dave Johnson, Jeremy Roberts, Sam Keith, Darwyn Cooke and Chad Hardin
Colors: Paul Mounts, Tomeu Morey, John Kalisz, Lovern Kindzierski, Alex Sinclair, Lee Loughridge, Dave Stewart & Alex Sollazzo
Letters: John J. Hill
Cover artists: Amanda Conner (regular)/Stephane Roux (variant)
Editor: Katie Kubert
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

I’m a few weeks late writing about this recent release, but I had a number of thoughts about it and wanted to jot them down. First off, I must point out I thoroughly enjoyed this comic book, not because I have a particular interest in the title character, but moreso because I enjoy the work of the writers and many of the artists who contributed. That being said, while I found this comic entertaining, I’m not entirely sure it was a good idea. Sure, a Harley Quinn is definitely a marketable property with mainstream recognition, and Palmiotti and Conner’s sensibilities are a great fit for the character. But this zero issue of the series really isn’t about Harleen Quinzell. Instead, it’s about the mainstream comics industry itself and the friendships the writers have formed over the years. As someone with an interest in the industry, as well as the personalities behind the stories and art, I was quite taken with this fourth-wall-breaking jaunt through the craft of comics. But I question if that cachet will appeal to the wider audience DC is no doubt looking to hook. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pair Necessities

Posted by Don MacPherson on 27th October 2013

Showcase Presents: DC Comics Presents – Superman Team-Ups Vol. 1 trade paperback
Writers: Mike Barr, Cary Bates, Paul Levitz, Dennis O’Neil, Jim Starlin, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, Gerry Conway, Steve Englehart, David Michelinie & Martin Pasko
Pencils: Murphy Anderson, José Luis García-López, Jim Starlin, Joe Staton, Curt Swan, Rich Buckler & Dick Dillin
Inks: Dan Adkins, Murphy Anderson, Vince Colletta, José Luis García-López, Joe Giella, Steve Mitchell, Jack Abel, Dick Giordano, Frank McLaughlin & Frank Chiaramonte
Letters: Ben Oda, Clem Robins, Todd Klein & Milt Snapinn
Cover artist: José Luis García-López
Editor: Julius Schwartz (original)/Ben Joy (collected edition)
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $17.99 US/$22.99 CAN

I’ve amassed a small collection of DC’s Showcase reprint editions and some selections from Marvel’s Essential line, and I’ve only recently started really delving into them. I find I’m enjoying these phone-book-like collections of Silver and Bronze Age material as much as some of the better modern comics on my pull list today. Mind you, I’m definitely judging these books through a different filter, from a different perspective. These are not sophisticated comics, not by a long run. The writers take some ridiculous shortcuts to get the plots where they want them to go at times, and some of the stories definitely bite off more than they can chew for a one-off, standalone story. But they are incredibly fun, especially when they include such forgettable villains as Dr. Horus and the De-Volver. Perhaps the best thing this black-and-white reprint edition has going for it, though, is how it spotlights the incredible talent of artist José Luis García-López, arguably the best comics talent the Bronze Age ever produced. Read the rest of this entry »

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No Laughing Matter

Posted by Don MacPherson on 4th September 2013

Batman #23.1
“Time to Monkey Shine”
Writer: Andy Kubert
Artist: Andy Clarke
Colors: Blond
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Cover artist: Jason Fabok
Editors: Katie Kubert & Mike Marts
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

Yes, I bought one of DC’s 3D/lenticular gimmick Villains Month comics from DC. I honestly didn’t know what to expect from this comic book, but after seeing what these 3D covers are selling for on eBay this week, I figured I’d check it out and if I didn’t enjoy it, I could always unload it for a tidy profit. Given the popularity and high profile of the Joker thanks to the recent “Death of the Family” storyline from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman, I thought the two Andys (Kubert and Clarke) might offer something in that vein. To my surprise, this story has absolutely no connection to the faceless Joker. Instead, we get something more akin to the Joker from The Killing Joke. Ultimately, what’s most interesting about this comic book isn’t the interpretation of the Joker, but rather how Andy Kubert fares as a writer rather than as an artist. It turns out, he’s got some chops, and I’ll definitely pay attention the next time he turns up as a writer on another DC title. Read the rest of this entry »

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This Unchained Melody Is Out of Tune

Posted by Don MacPherson on 12th June 2013

Variant coverVariant coverSuperman Unchained #1
“The Leap”
Writer: Scott Snyder
Pencils: Jim Lee & Dustin Nguyen
Inks: Scott Williams
Colors: Alex Sinclair & John Kalisz
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Cover artists: Jim Lee & Scott Williams (regular edition)/Brett Booth & Norm Rapmund; Bruce Timm; Dan Jurgens & Rapmund; Dave Johnson; Jerry Ordway; Jose Luis Garcia Lopez; Lee Bermejo; and Neal Adams (variants)
Editor: Matt Idelson
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99 US

The manager at my local comic shop today noted instead of a $5 Jim Lee comic book, I could pick up Gerard Way’s new comic or maybe something more offbeat such as Boom!’s new Six-Gun Gorilla. While I’m interested in those comics, I told him I saw it as spending five bucks on a new Scott Snyder comic, and I pointed to the strength of his work on Batman and, more recently, The Wake. He acknowledged Snyder’s name was a better reason for buying a comic book than Lee’s. But damn, I should have listened to him. I definitely could have done better with my fin than this exercise in excess and confusion. Read the rest of this entry »

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Johns and His Amazing Technicolor Dream Corps

Posted by Don MacPherson on 26th May 2013

Variant coverGreen Lantern #20
“The End”
Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Doug Mahnke, with Patrick Gleason, Cully Hamner, Aaron Kuder, Jerry Ordway, Ivan Reis & Ethan Van Sciver
Inks: Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne, Marc Deering, Mark Irwin, Wade Von Grawbadger, Tom Nguyen, Doug Mahnke, Oclair Albert & Joe Prado
Colors: Alex Sinclair & Tony Avina
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover artist: Doug Mahnke
Editor: Matt Idelson
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $7.99 US

I haven’t written in a few weeks, but this oversized (and expensive!) issue, concluding writer Geoff Johns’s highly successful run on the title character, sparked me to jot down some thoughts. I was a big fan of Johns’s additions to the GL mythos — specifically, the Corps of Many Colors. It was such a simple idea that breathed new life and legend into the super-hero/space-cop adventures of a classic Silver Age concept. I enjoyed the gradual introduction of the various corps, I enjoyed Blackest Night and I enjoyed the notion of returning arch-nemesis Sinestro to his status as a Green Lantern. All made for entertaining stories, but unfortunately, Johns isn’t going out on a high note. More recent storylines — the introduction of Simon Baz, “The Rise of the Third Army” and now “Wrath of the First Lantern” — haven’t boasted the same strength of simple sense of fun. After nine years, his Green Lantern stories certainly aren’t accessible, as is evident by this last salvo. Nevertheless, this last hurrah boasts some satisfying moments, mostly in the denouement of the First Lantern’s story, and I did appreciate the inclusion of contributions from so many past GL artists from Johns’s tenure on the property. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pass This Buck

Posted by Don MacPherson on 2nd March 2013

Variant coverVariant coverBefore Watchmen: Dollar Bill #1 one-shot
“I Want To Be In Pictures”
Writer: Len Wein
Artist/Letters: Steve Rude
Colors: Glen Whitmore
Cover artists: Rude (regular) – Darwyn Cooke/Jim Lee & Scott Williams (variants)
Editor: Mark Chiarello
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

Despite the controversy stemming from the publication of Watchmen prequel/spinoff comics against the wishes of writer Alan Moore, the Before Watchmen line has performed pretty well for DC, not only in terms of sales. Creatively, while there were some weak spots, the storytelling overall has been strong — not surprisingly, given the talent of the top-tier list of talent recruited to participate. Unfortunately, Dollar Bill can’t be counted among the storytelling successes of the line. Writer Len Wein and artist Steve Rude have taken a character meant to represent corporate manipulation of America and tried to use him to tell a straightforward super-hero origin story. This was an ill-advised course of action, and the fact this one-shot was announced after the initial success of the BW line, I’m left with the distinct impression this was little more than a rushed effort to cash in further on the publishing initiative. Dollar Bill serves as the strongest argument for critics opposed to Before Watchmen. Read the rest of this entry »

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A League of Their Own

Posted by Don MacPherson on 28th February 2013

DC’s decision to cancel mid-level performer Justice League International and replace it with a new title by a high-profile creative team was understandable. The main Justice League title is a top-tier title for the publisher, and with writer Geoff Johns at the helm, Justice League of America is bound to bring in the bucks for DC as well. What surprised by about the move was the decision to launch two spinoffs from the new JLA title in the same month as the first issue (with one spinoff beating the mother title to the stands).

It seems like an unusual move, but I understand it. Those interested in JLA might be more likely to check out Katana and Vibe given the concurrent releases. I thought I’d take a look at all three… Read the rest of this entry »

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Pop Goes the World

Posted by Don MacPherson on 8th December 2012

Human Bomb #1
“Chapter One: Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know”
Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray
Artist/Cover artist: Jerry Ordway
Colors: Hi-Fi
Letters: Taylor Esposito
Editor: Harvey Richards
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

I’ve a huge fan of legacy characters, especially when it comes to DC’s Golden Age super-heroes (or “mystery men,” as they’ve been called). My favorite storyline from Roy Thomas’s All-Star Squadron was the one in which he revealed the “untold” origin of the Freedom Fighters, which included the original Human Bomb. That being said, DC has apparently tasked writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray to retool and reinvent the Freedom Fighters characters for the 21st century (for the second time, as they penned a couple of Freedom Fighters series in the years right before DC’s New 52 relaunch). As is the case with Earth 2, DC has apparently decided to sever its Golden Age properties’ ties to the Second World War, and from a nostalgic perspective, I find that disappointing. While I was interested to see what Palmiotti and Gray were doing with these concepts with a series of limited series, I figured I’d wait to see what the word online about such comics as The Ray and Phantom Lady. If the buzz was positive, I’d seek out the collected editions. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a lot of chatter about them, and since I think the Human Bomb concept is a cool one, I decided to check out this first issue. While it’s devoid of any connection to the preceding spins on the character, the writers have crafted an interesting story that manages to overcome some significant challenges posed by the subject matter that didn’t exist when it was created in the 1940s. Read the rest of this entry »

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People Are Strange, When You’re a Stranger

Posted by Don MacPherson on 9th September 2012

Phantom Stranger #0
“A Stranger Among Us”
Writer: Dan DiDio
Pencils/Cover artist: Brent Anderson
Inks: Scott Hanna
Colors: Jeromy Cox
Letters: Travis Lanham
Editor: Wil Moss
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

It was clear from the title character’s appearance in DC Comics – The New 52 FCBD Special Edition #1, he’s intended to be a part of a larger event-driven story, likely the first of DC’s New 52 continuity, as he’s been linked to Pandora, the mysterious woman who appeared in all 52 first issues of the line back in September 2011. And judging from this origin issue, DC is employing the Phantom Stranger as a catalyst to bring more of its classic characters into the New 52 fold. There’s just one problem: the Stranger doesn’t seem to have much of a story of his own. Sure, there’s his effort to redeem himself by performing divine tasks to rid himself of his cursed coins, but his real purpose appears to be to make things happen for other characters. And it all seems rather pointless. Read the rest of this entry »

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Blackest Knight

Posted by Don MacPherson on 28th July 2012

National Comics: Eternity #1
“Kid Eternity”
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artists: Cully Hamner & Derec Donovan
Colors: Val Staples
Letters: Patrick Brosseau
Cover artist: Cully Hamner
Editor: Ben Abernathy
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

Jeff Lemire has done some solid work with DC’s supernatural/weird characters as of late, and Cully Hamner’s artwork is always something to which I look forward. So when DC announced this comic book, the first in a series of one-shots spotlighting some of its more obscure and odd characters, I was eager to get my hands on it. The story here is entertaining, and the art embraces a dark tone that suits the macabre elements of the premise. Ultimately, though, Lemire’s plot and premise felt rather familiar. This feels like by-the-numbers storytelling. While I enjoyed what I was reading, I also knew exactly what to expect, not only from page to page, but from panel to panel. I had an odd feeling when I reached the end of the comic book, realizing a writer so well-known for his unconventional stories and characters had offered up something so conventional. Read the rest of this entry »

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Alternative Comic

Posted by Don MacPherson on 5th July 2012

Batman: Earth One original hardcover graphic novel
“Earth One”
Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils/Cover artist: Gary Frank
Inks: Jonathan Sibal
Colors: Brad Anderson
Letters: Rob Leigh
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $22.99 US/$25.99 CAN

DC’s “Earth One” line of graphic novels (though one can hardly call it a line at this point) really got lost in the shuffle when the publisher relaunched its entire stable of ongoing super-hero comics last fall. I think it’s a safe bet these graphic novels — which, like many of the New 52 comics, offer new takes on familiar characters — was something that was dreamed up and had resources dedicated to it long before DC embarked on its successful New 52 initiative. The problem with Batman: Earth One lies not with the storytelling or creativity. Instead, it confuses the DC brand, especially at a time when the publisher is garnering more headlines for a gay character in Earth 2 than with a retooling of its most popular property in a book awkwardly subtitled “Earth One.” Once one ignores the poor management and marketing decisions, though, one will find an entertaining and offbeat take on DC’s Darknight Detective. Describing it as a “fresh take” would be a misnomer, though, as the choices writer Geoff Johns makes here for the Batman aren’t entirely new. Read the rest of this entry »

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Minute by Minute

Posted by Don MacPherson on 6th June 2012

Variant coverBefore Watchmen: Minutemen #1
“The Minute of Truth, Chapter One: Eight Minutes”
Writer/Artist: Darwyn Cooke
Colors: Phil Noto
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
“The Curse of the Crimson Corsair: The Devil in the Deep, Part One”
Writer: Len Wein
Artist: John Higgins
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Cover artists: Cooke (regular)/Michael Golden (variant)/Jim Lee & Scott Williams (variant)
Editor: Mark Chiarello
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US (print only)/$4.99 US (digital combo pack)

Truth to be told, I wasn’t among comics readers who are interested in new Watchmen-related comics. I am, however, keenly interested in new comics crafted by Darwyn Cooke, so picking up this controversial curiosity of comics was a no-brainer for me. I knew I’d love the artwork, and given Cooke’s affinity for moody, 20th-century period pieces (The New Frontier, Parker), I was interested in what he had to offer. Read the rest of this entry »

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A New 52 Review: The Ravagers #1

Posted by Don MacPherson on 31st May 2012

Variant coverThe Ravagers #1
“Children of Destiny”
Writer: Howard Mackie
Pencils: Ian Churchill
Inks: Norm Rapmund & Ian Churchill
Colors: Alex Sollazzo
Letters: Dezi Sienty
Cover artists: Churchill (regular)/Brett Booth & Rapmund (variant)
Editor: Pat McCallum & Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

While I knew going in this wasn’t going to be the sort of comic book I normally enjoy, the first sign something was amiss was apparent on the cover, with the six protagonists all identified with bold captions. It’s not often one sees that incorporated into cover art, at least not in a composition such as this one. Still, I kept an open mind, interested in how DC and its creative talent have reinvented some familiar and not-so familiar characters. Unfortunately, this comic is exactly what it appears to be: an inaccessible, uber-violent exercise in “Kewl” comics storytelling of the mid-1990s. In other words, it’s an example of How Not to Do Comics. I hope DC will be content with circulations numbers at the same level of Teen Titans, because there isn’t a prayer of this title bringing in any more readers than that. And it’s far more likely The Ravagers will find itself kicked to the curb to make way for another wave of New 52 titles in the future. Read the rest of this entry »

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A New 52 Review: Batman Incorporated v.2 #1

Posted by Don MacPherson on 23rd May 2012

Variant coverBatman Incorporated v.2 #1
“Batman, Incorporated: Leviathan, Part One: Demon Star”
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Chris Burnham
Colors: Nathan Fairbairn
Letters: Patrick Brosseau
Cover artists: Burnham (regular)/Frank Quitely (variant)
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

While Grant Morrison acknowledges in this script some of the events from various Batman comics he didn’t write, what he really does here is pick up where he left off in the first volume of Batman and Robin. In that series, he impressed readers with his presentation of a new dynamic between the Dynamic Duo. In that previous project, Batman was Dick Grayson, the original Robin, and the new Robin was a genetically engineered child assassin. The dark and light aspects of the pairing were reversed. Now Morrison has Bruce Wayne back, and the Dynamic Duo is the Dark and Dismal Duo. Peter J. Tomasi has been doing some solid work with the two characters in the New 52 incarnation of Batman and Robin, but Morrison has something else in store here. His focus isn’t so much on character but on plot, but given the scope and inventiveness of that plot, it’s a worthwhile read. More importantly, Morrison’s Batman work has served as a great spotlight for Chris Burnham, who quickly went from being an unknown illustrator with a couple of obscure graphic novels under his belt to a go-to talent for DC. Read the rest of this entry »

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A New 52 Review: DC Universe Presents #9

Posted by Don MacPherson on 22nd May 2012

DC Universe Presents #9
“Savage, Part One: Daddy’s Little Girl”
Writer: James Robinson
Artist/Colors: Bernard Chang
Letters: Steve Wands
Cover artist: Ryan Sook
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

Well, this series has only struck out once in three times at bat. James Robinson’s reinterpretation of Vandal Savage is the third feature to grace the pages of this series, which offers stories spotlighting different characters by different creative teams. There’s an undeniable Silence of the Lambs riff at play in this story, but the familial dynamic keeps it from seeming derivative. The writer blends the serial-killer genre with the periphery of that of the super-hero (or villain, to be more precise), and the result is thoroughly entertaining. While I enjoyed the strong, new female protagonist Robinson introduces here, what stands out as the greatest strength of the issue is Bernard Chang’s artwork. He did such a great job on the inaugural Deadman story arc in DC Universe Presents and on this new one, it seems to me DC ought to just make him the regular artist for the series across the board. Chang is a skilled comics artist whose traditional style nevertheless boasts a great deal of nuance and impact when the story calls for it. Read the rest of this entry »

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